UP Asian Center Faculty Present Studies on Federalism in 2017 EUROSEAS Conference

Posted in News @ UP Asian Center

Photo: Screenshot of online copy of Book of Abstracts

UP Asian Center Faculty, Associate Professor Rolando Talampas and Assistant Professor Ulrich Rotthoff, presented their respective studies on federalism in the Philippines at the 9th European Southeast Asian Studies (EUROSEAS) Conference at the University of Oxford last 16–18 August 2017.

"Different Federalisms, Same Outcomes: Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar Lessons for the Philippine Shift?" by Rolando Talampas

The issue of ethnicity has been much involved in the federalism experiences, no matter how critiqued, in the southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar. In these countries, on the one hand, dominant state actors have sought to stabilize their regimes or pursue democratic inclusion, and on the other, minority or ethnonational forces have sought to realize greater measure of autonomy. Thus, federal experiences have been called “minimalist,” “uncompleted,” among others. Capturing lessons from dealing with various issues that impinge on the desirability of the shift to federal system makes for an industry. Arguably, studies have indicated that varied and opposite intentions have yielded some shared concerns but different conclusions as to whether federalism were really the best system that these countries needed. This paper submits that ethnic or ethnonational minorities can only benefit from federalism as the postcolonial ethnic majority central government’s populist posturings erode the salient vestiges of authoritarianism, that is, via more inclusive democratization. However, the different contingencies of democratization vary across cases and thus seem to shape scenarios that put central/national state intentions and programs at a greater advantage. Nationalism trumps ethnonationalism. As a result, minority reactions to unrealized goals complicate the federal picture. Rodrigo Duterte’s federal shift promise may or may not draw lessons from the country’s neighbors. But if and when he does so, it could be further argued that it would be in the same intention—notwithstanding his pro-Mindanao rhetoric—to keep the power and authority of those who view country’s minorities from the same vantage point. And the outcome would not be much different.

 “Federalism and Inclusive Development” by Ulrich Rothhoff

The idea of introducing federal structures in the Philippines may be seen as addressing the issue of lacking inclusion of large segments of Philippine society in development processes. This includes indigenous communities. However, federalism is unlikely to be a panacea. There are best practice examples for states organized along federal principles (e.g. Germany), on the one hand, and states with a centralistic alignment of government structures (e.g. France), on the other hand. While ethnicity-centered semantics are less important or accepted in many debates pertaining to the federal organization of the state the situation seems to be different in the Philippines. Here, the federalism debate seems to be loaded with ethnic, ethno-lingual, ethno- religious semantics – or concepts of otherings. In fact, the Philippines does have an abundance of possible ethnic-centered group descriptions. However, only a few enter the political debate while the majority of all possible divides remain out. Starting out from this point, the paper will revolve around the function of forms of othering. That is, we will ask for the purposes that these semantics may be addressing. For the case of indigenous communities, these issues will be discussed against the backdrop of shifting leadership paradigms towards specific patterns of Philippine elite democracy. Eventually, the question is whether federalism as discussed in the Philippines could be an avenue towards inclusive development via diffusion of power, or if federalism along semantics loaded with forms of (ethnic and quasi-ethnic) othering is just an organizational resource (in the sense of an instrument) applied in the struggle over access to, e.g., natural/economic resources. Alternatively, is the othering semantic concealing elite interests or even intra-elite struggles over resources and, thus, contrary to the idea of federalism leads to exclusion rather than inclusion of the population.


The European Association for Southeast Asian Studies is a gathering of academics and experts on Southeast Asia Studies in Europe. Every year, the conference hosts 450 participants from over 40 countries. This year it was held at the Examinations Schools in Oxford, England. This year’s keynote Speakers included Kasian Tejapira, Professor of Government at Thammasat University, and Laksmi Pamuntjak, Indonesian novelist, journalist, and essayist. 

The UP Asian Center offers M.A. programs in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Get an overview of these programs. The Asian Center also houses a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia. It has published several books and monographs, and hosts or organizes various lectures and conferences.  

What's Happening @ UP Asian Center


Events @ UP Diliman

Click on the image to view the list of upcoming events in the Diliman Campus